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Utah meets governor’s goal by keeping new COVID-19 cases average below 400

Dunn hopes flu cases will decrease because of prevention measures

Heather Wetch, Caleb Stepaniak and Marina Hays conduct tests as the University of Utah’s Wellness Bus conducts COVID-19 testing at West Valley City’s Centennial Park on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
Heather Wetch, Caleb Stepaniak and Marina Hays conduct tests as the University of Utah’s Wellness Bus conducts COVID-19 testing at West Valley City’s Centennial Park on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah met Gov. Gary Herbert’s goal of maintaining a rolling average of below 400 daily new COVID-19 cases by Sept. 1 as Tuesday brought just 296 additional coronavirus cases and two more deaths, according to the Utah Department of Health.

The new cases were confirmed out of 4,666 tests, with a 6.3% positive rate.

The rolling seven-day average for new cases is 374 per day, and the average positive test rate is 9%. The highest increases in new cases Tuesday occurred in Salt Lake County, where 118 were confirmed; Utah County, with 63; and Davis County, with 42.

The state has seen 52,403 confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 664,521 people tested in Utah since the pandemic began, an overall positive rate of 7.8%.

Officials are concerned about overlapping flu season with COVID-19, but what’s being seen in communities in the southern hemisphere that are already going through flu season is encouraging, Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said Tuesday.

“They haven’t seen much flu, and that’s largely because they’re putting in place COVID prevention measures like social distancing and masking, and it seems to be working for flu as well. So we’re really hopeful that continues for Utah,” Dunn said on KSL Newsradio.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance saying that people who come in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases should wait until they have symptoms to get tested, Dunn said close contacts of cases who have no symptoms are still encouraged to get tested in Utah. The state’s testing capacity remains strong, she said.

But fewer people are getting tested compared to when the state was seeing a peak in new cases in June and July, something health officials have been investigating.

“We definitely need more testing out there to understand where the spread is happening and to make sure people aren’t getting sick,” she said.

Death rate

The two deaths reported Tuesday bring the state’s toll to 409. They were a Utah County man between the ages of 45 and 64 who was hospitalized when he died; and a Salt Lake County man older than 85, who was not hospitalized when he died.

The death rate of confirmed cases in Utah now stands at 0.78%. In Utah, state health officials have said those counted as COVID-19 deaths would not have died when they did if not for the infection. Of those who died with the disease in the state, 78% had at least one preexisting condition and 92.4% were considered at high risk.

That largely aligns with data recently released by the CDC, which said nationally that for just 6% of deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned on death certificates. For the rest, there were on average 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.

But although most COVID-19 fatalities were those most at-risk, excess death data for the U.S. shows many more have died since the pandemic hit compared to past years.

The U.S. began seeing an excess in deaths of between 6.5% to 10.2% compared to average death counts for that time of the year starting on the week of March 21, CDC data shows. By the time deaths in the country peaked during the week ending on April 11, there were between 36.2% and 41.1% excess deaths.

Utah-specific data on excess deaths associated with COVID-19 has not been released.

Of those who have died with the disease in Utah, 60.6% were male and 39.4% were female, according to state health department data. The average age was 72.8, but 15 people between the ages of 25 and 44, as well as 99 people between ages 45-64, have died with the coronavirus in Utah.

Currently, 126 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, one more than on Monday. Just over 3,100 people have needed hospitalization for the disease in the state since the pandemic began.

In Utah, 44,338 confirmed cases are considered recovered after surviving the three-week point since their diagnoses, meaning 8,065 infections are active.